Broadcast networks have seen their audiences shrink over the last several years, but not all that primetime viewing is disappearing entirely; when you take DVRs into account, shows can add a significant amount of audience. CBS, for instance, says about one-fifth of its “primetime” viewing happens at some other time, as its viewers have increasingly turned to DVRs for time-shifted viewing.
According to a report in The Hollywood Reporter, CBS research chief David Poltrack told an audience at the UBS Global Media and Communications Conference that CBS gets an average of 1 million viewers watching DVR’d content on the same day an episode premieres, and gets an additional 1.5 million viewers over the next seven days. The amount of time-shifted viewing that happens among the 18-49 demographic runs even higher, adding 42 percent to its live audience for that demographic.
The amount of time-shifted viewing that some shows see is significant. The Hollywood Reporter writes that ABC hit Modern Family gets the most lift when DVR playback is counted, adding 5.4 million viewers per episode on average. Grey’s Anatomy (5.0 million), The Big Bang Theory (4.7 million), Glee (4.6 million) and NCIS (4.5 million) also fare pretty well among DVR households.
The fact that DVRs are adding viewership is a positive development, though those viewers tend to be worth less to broadcasters and advertisers. While broadcasters are now better able to track viewing that happens on DVRs, that doesn’t mean they can monetize those audiences as well; DVR viewers tend to skip through ads, lowering the rate that networks can charge for viewing that doesn’t happen live and in primetime. And some ads — like those for weekend movie premieres — are time-dependent, making viewing outside the first three days difficult to sell.
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